For a company that has been around for more than 100 years, it can sometimes be challenging to find new ways to spur growth. To its credit, though, Hershey
Yesterday, the chocolate king announced another double-digit quarterly sales gain, with revenues climbing 10.6% to $988.4 million. Excluding a one-time $0.23 income tax gain from last year, adjusted earnings climbed 18.2% to $0.39 per share, narrowly topping expectations.
As has been the case recently, most of the credit can be attributed to new product innovation and limited-edition releases, although higher prices also had an impact. From white chocolate-coated Kit-Kats to Almond Joy with lime, Hershey continues to find exciting new ways to repackage old favorites. Many shoppers have been willing to drop one of these new treats into their Target
However, select acquisitions have also played a key role. Like last quarter, the recent purchases of macadamia nut specialist Mauna Loa and Mexican candy maker Grupo Lorena contributed around 3% to Hershey's top-line growth. At the year's midway point, the company has delivered earnings growth of more than 16% and tacked on to its industry-leading share of the chocolate market, which is now approaching 50%.
While gross margins contracted by 50 basis points during the quarter to 39.8%, the company has been working to keep expenses in check. On that front, management has also announced plans to close an underutilized plant in Puerto Rico and offer voluntary retirement or separation packages to an undisclosed number of workers. After an initial $0.41 to $0.44 per-share charge (most of which will be booked over the next two quarters), the new program is expected to shave up to $50 million off annual costs.
Hershey has done a good job of leveraging its key brands, and has taken steps to sweeten its ties to consumers by opening a multipurpose outlet in a prominent Chicago shopping district. The new venture, which proudly offers more than 650 different types of candy and a decadent cupcake/cookie bar, follows the company's initial foray into retail -- a New York store that has been operating successfully for several years.
With management reiterating that both sales and earnings are likely to top internal targets over the next couple of years, Hershey continues to reward shareholders with satisfying growth. Top that off with a tasty dividend -- which has been drizzled on ever thicker for five straight years -- and the company begins to look tempting. With a PEG ratio in excess of 2.6, though, prospective investors might want to check the financial nutrition on the back of the wrapper before digging in.
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Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter would gladly trade you a Hershey's Mr. Goodbar miniature for a Special Dark. He owns none of the companies mentioned.